From Menswear designer Alex Muto comes a new project in the form of brand MUTO: a curated collection inspired by the designer's Italian heritage, with a nod to traditional activewear and workwear.
Muto possesses a unique combination of skills that allow him to design with wit, precision and effortlessness. He has an unfaltering eye for detail, subtlety and the ability to find beauty in the most unexpected places. Always executed with a fresh, light-hearted approach.
The combination of the skills nurtured while working at storied fashion houses and his personal love of sportswear informs his work and enables the creation of a unique interpretation of the traditional streetwear brand. Now everyone can enjoy a touch of Italian style!
Alex Muto is a graduate of the University of Westminster, who has since gone on to design for Tom Ford, under Alessandro Michele at Gucci and most recently Christopher Bailey at Burberry.
“I’m often sceptical about doing interviews and photo shoots as it’s a bit like social media: so easy to paint everything as a perfect picture and hide all the less shiny bits you don’t want people to know or see,” London-based designer Alex Muto tells me when we link up post-shoot. He’s in his cosy canal boat which is moored in East London. Just a quick search online adds credit to his claim, there’s little information and scarce interviews about the designer, despite his burgeoning eponymous brand. “I’d hate for people to read this and look at me and think I know what I’m doing and I’ve got it all figured out! Like with anyone, this is so not the case. I want people to remember that failures are just as important as the successes. They need each other in order to exist.”
Muto was born and raised in the sprawling Leicestershire countryside to a British mother and an Italian-born father. He can trace his infatuation with design back to his childhood, and particularly the influence of his father, who was a women’s shoe designer. He grew up amongst the colourful sketches and would spend sick-days at the factory with his Dad, often sat quietly in the corner during manufacturing meetings. “I used to cut up bridal magazines as a toddler and make scrapbooks of dream dresses, and I’d paint on pieces of wood or stones I found outside, press flowers, make greetings cards, and rearrange my bedroom on a nightly basis! Creativity has always been in my DNA – it’s second nature to me, and when I feel most alive and excited.”
He admits to having a problematic relationship with academia, but the one subject he felt comfortable with was art & design, where he was given the creative freedom to nurture his talent. “I eventually fell into modelling at 16, where I got my first taste of the fashion industry. When you’re that age, the bright lights and glamour are all terribly exciting and equally terrifying! I never had the unshakable confidence some of these kids have in front of the camera and was a tragic model, but being in that environment I got to see how shoots work and I got to meet and work with designers, photographers, stylists, makeup artists who were creative in their own ways every day.” His foray into modelling led him onto a Fashion Design course at Westminster University, and after graduating, he quickly landed jobs at some of the world’s biggest brands including Tom Ford, Gucci and Burberry. Despite working amongst the fashion elite, he realised that something didn't feel right. While everyone around him thrived within the fast-paced work environment, he recognised that this wasn’t the area he excelled in (“I have a very specific way I like to work (extremely thorough, alone mostly, and at my own pace) and the way those design teams are set up doesn’t always nurture the natural introvert!”)
After leaving Burberry, he decided that it was time for him to create something of his own, leaning on a particular piece of advice he’d been given: ‘do what you do and what you know, as no-one else can do that better than you.’ He launched his eponymous brand with a string of tees, hoodies and sweaters adorning playful artworks and typography. It’s worlds away from the more serious design work he’d been doing in-house and more in-line with his own relaxed creative aesthetic. He’s dedicated to creating something playful and fun, with bursts of colour and nostalgia, but while still maintaining a particular edge. “The brand is a culmination of everything I am and everything I see day to day. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected and strangest places. I’m heavily influenced by my rural upbringing/childhood; there’s a lot of nostalgia and a sense of fun and adventure in my design and prints. References to trips I’ve taken or things I’ve seen that stuck with me. The brand is also deeply rooted in the mix of British style and Italian style – the effortless fun and rebellious nature of British youth culture against the traditional beauty of classic Italian design.”
His main goal is that people take away enjoyment from the pieces. He admits that he spent a long time as a self-confessed perfectionist, wanting his work to exist in some sort of “untouchable alternate reality”, but he’s now steered away from his idealist mentality and is dedicated to designing pieces that bring him joy and that can be worn every day. “As someone who has battled with mental health problems over the years, it’s so important to me that the brand is uplifting, light-hearted and inclusive. Fashion and clothing should only ever be fun!”
As for the future? “I’m really interested in expanding into other areas of design and collaborating with other artists in different fields. I’m someone who is fascinated by interiors, antiques, homeware, sculptures and paintings. I imagine the brand becoming more of a place where people can go and always find some unique and exciting pieces and ideas – whether that be clothes, accessories, original prints/paintings, stationary, quilts, plant pots?! Anything that lends itself to the brand aesthetic. I’m busy creating my fantasy Muto world.”